Thursday, July 21, 2016

EUGEN | How Did He Meet Inez?

Guglielmo Marconi
Spartacus reports twice, in its bios of both Eugen Boissevain and Inez Milholland, that they met through Max Eastman. The statement is unsourced, questionable and highly dubious. I would be interested in finding a source or basis for the claim.

My understanding is that Inez and Eugen met at a dinner at the ritzy Holland House in June 1913, at which Eugen's brother Robert Boissevain introduced Eugen to Inez. The link among them was Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of wireless communications and the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize:
  • Guglielmo was the second son, after Alfonso, born to Giuseppe Marconi's second wife (the first one, from the Renoli banking family in Bologna, died), an Irish woman, Annie Jameson. Annie was the daughter of Andrew Jameson of the family that made and makes Irish whiskey.
  • Robert married a Jameson descendant, Rosie Phibbs. Robert left Rosie and their six children in Amsterdam because of her public remonstrations about, I recollect, infidelities. He was remarried in New York to Anne Deterling, secretary to Alma Vanderbilt Belmont, and he had two American sons, one (Alfred) still living in 2016. Robert worked for Marconi in London and New York, probably on ship-related telegraphy, since Robert had been shipping manager for United Fruit in New York.
  • Inez was Guglielmo's first serious love object. He proposed to her in October 1903 (when she was 17) aboard the Lucania, sailing from London to New York. Marconi was on the ship because it was  the one that initiated the Cunard Daily Bulletin, the on-board news sheet based on shore-to-ship telegrams via Marconi. Dissuaded by his Irish mother not to marry Inez, possibly because he would naturally gravitate to New York and her American relatives, the engagement was apologetically withdrawn in 1904 on the basis that Inez was too young to be married. Instead, later that year Marconi married Beatrice (Bea) O'Brien, daughter of the 13th Baron Inchiquin, who was descended from Brian Boru. Bea was a party-lover and although they stayed married she didn't remain with Guglielmo when he went to Nova Scotia to experiment with wireless stations. Guglielmo meanwhile remained a good friend of his "old flame" Inez. (Source: Degna Marconi, My Father Marconi, pp. 129, 174.)
My mother Hilda van Stockum (Eugen and Robert's niece) told me Eugen once passed on to her something that Guglielmo said to him: "Inez is too strong for me. She needs someone like you that is a match for her."

My mother also reported to me that Inez said flippantly about her engagement: "I am very fond of Guglielmo, but who would want to be married to a radio?" Which was what happened to Bea.

Guglielmo was very close to his mother Annie and not his father, who objected strenuously to his day-dreaming about talking through the air. A gardener to his mother, seeing Guglielmo for the first time, commented about her son's big ears.  Annie replied in the affirmative: "He will be able to hear the voice of the air."

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